Support group offers hope for autism families

Support group offers hope for autism familiesBefore now most local families have not had a formal channel to share with their extended circles how autism affects the everyday lives of those carrying the diagnosis — and those responsible for caring for them.

Now Cherish Rindt wants to let her story open windows of understanding to increase awareness of autism for those who don’t live with it, while also letting other families like the Rindts know that they are not alone. Cherish is committed to sharing all she and her family have learned and experienced with others in the Indian Wells Valley who might be facing similar challenges.

The struggles that parents of autistic children have often begin with an urgent and frustrating search for answers. Cherish and Patrick Rindt began their journey to understand the needs of their son, Patrick Jr., nearly eight years ago. These days, however, that quest has broadened to an attempt to shed light on the difficult roads other families find themselves traveling.

Cherish is paving the way for others to find hope and support. She admits that a year ago she had no way of knowing what she knows today about the importance of joining hands with other parents.

Last February she began attending Parent Faculty Training at the H.E.A.R.T.S. Connection headquarters in Bakersfield. Getting better informed is one of the top things she believes strongly in when it comes to her efforts to help other families with autistic children. That’s what originally drove her to apply for a place in the training program.

“I originally intended to gather information for my son,” she said. “I was at a place in my life where I was absorbing everything I could use to help Patrick. By the end of the course, I had come to realize that it was all so much bigger — this was a something that was far bigger than just my son and our family.

“I realized that there are lots of other families who need support. And without this support, children will fall through the cracks, and that is not acceptable.”

Cherish wants to make information more accessible to parents. But of equal importance is to dispel misinformation.

“Parents of autistic children need reputable sources. I feel sources like the Center for Disease Control, the Autism Speaks organization and the H.E.A.R.T.S. Connection are among those you can trust.” Each of those organizations has extensive information available online.

Cherish added that there are lots of theories and studies that are evolving and raising the understanding of autism.

“There is a learning curve to all this, and we need to be cautious before throwing families into experimental therapies. Parents need to learn how to ask questions, too. That’s one way that talking to other parents who have been working through this for a while, and know about facing similar challenges, can be helpful.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of parent-to-parent support groups where sharing experiences and talking things out become more valuable than online research,” Cherish said.

“We all need people to talk to who have been through what we are dealing with. Developing these relationships are critical so you realize you are not alone. As a parent you have to be strong for your children, but you need someone to help you be strong for you.

“In some cases these parents may help you, but there will also be times where your experience can help them.”

“That’s important and it is a big aspect behind organizing local families who are facing autism diagnoses. Parents, children, siblings, each of us need support. Ridgecrest Autism Awareness, with support from H.E.A.R.T.S. Connection, is becoming a subcommunity so we can all bring hope to each other,” she added. “No one can understand as well as someone who’s gone through it or is currently experiencing it.”

For more information about Ridgecrest Autism Awareness activities, call 760-371-9116 and ask for Cherish. Or visit the organization’s Facebook page and join the interactive support that is growing there.

Story First Published: 2013-04-03